An apple a day is helping Cracker the horse

Cracker the horse likes nothing better than an apple as a snack.

And a community apple day in Shropshire has helped keep Cracker in food and lodgings for the coming winter.

Cracker is the horse that pulls the Bywater Cruises boat on the Montgomery Canal near Oswestry.

The coronavirus has meant the cruises have not been operational all summer, yet owners, Dave Barker and his son, Tim, has still had to pay their canal licence and put Cracker in livery.

"Cracker has always been the most expensive member of our team."

So Tim decided to ask the local community for help, in return for turning their apple crops into apple juice.

He and friend, Joe Anderson, run the Masham Cider Press company and brought their apple press to Canal Central at Maesbury Marsh on Saturday.

Families and individuals were able to take their surplus apples along and see them turned into apple juice to take home.

In return they were asked to consider making a donation towards Cracker's keep during the winter.

Masham Cider Press would then turn excess juice into cider.

"We were completely booked up on Saturday as we had to be extra cautious and limit numbers with slots for family groups for Covid compliance," Tim said.

"Ian and Fiona at Canal Central have a wonderful apple orchard."

"I hope everyone enjoyed their experience - and of course the apple juice."

"My Dad and I decided it would be impossible to run the horse drawn cruises this year. We have such a lot of help from volunteers, many of whom are in the 70s and so more at risk from the virus.

"The boat only takes 12 people and so social distancing would have been difficult and also Cracker takes up a lot of room on the towpath and so it would have been difficult to pass people Covid Safely."

"We don't want to stop our horse drawn cruises but it is a possibility we will have to look at in the spring unless a vaccine can be found."

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